Simple but Effective – Why you should consider setting up a simple contact management system

If you’re a new start-up, working on your own, you might wonder about the value of putting a full-on CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system in place.  And as I have stressed elsewhere, “free” CRMs do exist, but it may still take some time to get your head round a new tool – and time is a precious commodity, especially in an emerging business.

So – what to do in the meantime?  Do nothing with your important customer information? This is of course an option, but if you are serious about growing your business then it is not a great idea.

Why not?  Because the sooner you start to gather information about your customers and prospects, the earlier you will start to have data you can analyse, and refine your business model.  You can also benefit from some kind of system to remind you of important tasks.

When you started to plan out your business did you spend some time defining your ideal customer?   (Sometimes also known as a Customer Avatar, or Buyer Persona).  The biggest mistake people make is to think that “anyone” will buy their products and/or services.  There is plenty of research to show that the more laser-focussed you are on your ideal customer, the more business will “fall into your lap”.  It doesn’t, of course, it just works that way because you have planned it that way!

However, as time goes on, keeping records about the customers that you are getting, and the prospects that you are losing, will allow you to sharpen that axe – and get greater and greater clarity regarding your customer avatar.

You can also start to work out which products are selling (and which are more profitable) and test out your pricing.

If you have a web shop then you have lots of this information to hand already, which you can analyse (including “abandoned basket” metrics).  IF you don’t and you are meeting customers and prospects face to face then you should consider keeping some basic information on them.

Here’s a very simple contact spreadsheet (this one’s a Google Sheet, but of course you may use Excel)

Most of this information would be on a contact’s business card – or you could request it on a contact form on your website.  Note the “Relationship” field where you can define who this person is – a Customer, a Prospect or whatever?  Note as well that you can add dropdown or pick lists (in Google and in Excel) to make data entry easy and to aid data analysis later on.

You can see the lists which are being used for this on the right-hand side.

You can add a note in column J, but you would either have to over-write information or just keep typing into the same cell.  This would be where a CRM would start to become useful – to start to record all calls, meetings etc as individual events (as well as adding reminder tasks with alerts).

What else could you add? This may depend on whether you are B2B or B2C – you might want demographics if you are B2C such as age (range) and other attributes (making sure you are not falling foul of GDPR regulations). If you are B2B then it may be easier as you might record Industry Sector, Turnover or Number of employees – which are not “personal data” so you can happily collect this information.

Whatever your business life-stage, if you are not currently using a CRM then this would be a really great starting point.  If you employ other people, it makes it a little more difficult, as it’s hard to share a spreadsheet, and so that might force you into considering a CRM earlier.  But if not, then give this a go, and get your head around the fields and data that are important for your business.

Once you have a system in place – transitioning to a CRM will be easy – you already have processes in place, you understand your data and every system (that I have encountered) will allow you to upload your data from a spreadsheet.  So, what’s stopping you – give it a go!

If you’d like a copy of a template spreadsheet then Get in touch.

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